What do you want from Christmas?
Advent outreach at Seaport shrine
What do you want from Christmas? I'm not asking what you want for Christmas, but what you want from Christmas?
I know what I want from Christmas, and it is good. It is really, really good. But more on that later...
For many adults, Christmas has become a time of mild cynicism.
The message of Christmas is about peace, but peace seems impossibly far off. We want peace in the world, but when was the last time you believed we were actually close to achieving that? We want peace in our hearts, but we might find it for a moment or for a day, and then all of the peace-shattering realities come crashing back through, and our hearts are once again left in anguish.
The message of Christmas is about happiness, but if peace is elusive and fleeting, happiness is all the more so. So many of the things that make us happy don't last. We are happy because we have our health, but then we get sick. We are happy because we are secure, but then we lose our job. We are happy, but perhaps only a little bit happy, and we sense within ourselves that we are called to something far more profound than being a little bit happy.
And every adult knows these things. And so, for many adults, the temptation is to say, "Christmas is for children. Let's give them the best day we can."
But when we think that way, we've got it all wrong.
When I was in high school, I was in the school choir. We used to sing a song in our Christmas concert that went, "Christmas is a feeling, bringing good cheer -- it's love and joy and laughter for people everywhere." That song is precisely wrong. Christmas is not a feeling. Christmas is a person. And that person is Jesus.
If you celebrate your child's birthday, you are not rejoicing in the feeling the birthday gives you -- you are not rejoicing in the details of the party or the success of the presents. You are rejoicing in your child.
At Christmas, I am not celebrating peace or joy or laughter or gifts or decorations or the office party or carols or the meal. These things are good, but they don't last. I'm celebrating Jesus.
So what do you want from Christmas? I can tell you what I want. I want Jesus.
I want Jesus to be born in my heart as he was born in Bethlehem. I want to adore him, as did the shepherds and the angels and the ox and ass and lambs. I want to hold him in my arms, closer to me than I am to myself, as did Mother Mary. I want to care and provide for those who love him, as did St. Joseph. I want to announce his presence and herald the peace that only he can bring to the world, as did the angels. I want to bring him the best I've got and lay it next to him, as did the Magi.
I want him to change my life, as he changed the world. I want him to deliver me and save me from my many sins. I want him to love me. And I want to love him -- above all things I want to love him. Because I need him. Without him I am lost -- a lonely, hopeless wanderer in a world I do not understand. I need him ... and so do you.
I do not know where you are on your journey with him. Perhaps you are his best friend. Perhaps you have not spoken his name in reverence for the last 20 years. Maybe you are in church once a week, or once a year, or once a decade. Perhaps you are a saint who is tempted by sin, or perhaps you are a sinner who is haunted by the desire for sanctity. I do not know where you are, but I know this: Jesus intends a good for you that is more good than any that you have yet imagined or dared to hope for. And he intends that good for you. Not for the pious person who lives next door to you. Not for your saintly grandmother. Not for the pope in Rome or the monk in a cave. He intends it for you. And he intends to enter your life just as he entered the world through his birth in Bethlehem. The time has come. Mary knew it. You know it.
So welcome him in. You don't have to make it happen somehow, any more than Mary had to make Jesus be born. He is coming. Welcome him in.
If you're not quite sure how to do that, I can just tell you that you shouldn't underestimate the power of simply saying it to him, "Jesus, I welcome you into my life. I need you. Save me."
And go to see your parish priest, and tell him you want to grow closer to Jesus. He will help you.
The time for cynicism is over. The time for joy has come. This is the hour. Jesus is about to be born into your world. He is coming. Welcome him in.
So now, in the silence, of your hearts, I encourage you to ask the question again. What do you want from Christmas?